Cindy Sherman’s (1954-) innovative artwork has allowed her to become one of the most influential artists of our time. Her work, an exploration of identity, individuality and representation, places her as one of the premier women of art as she transforms herself into an array of personas and characters. At the Museum of Modern art, 170 photographs of Sherman’s work will be on display through June. This work covers her film stills from the late 1970s, her European art-history portraits, and her more current work with the representation of youth and aging.
Throughout the exhibit the viewer is given a glimpse into Sherman’s long and strong career. Cindy Sherman gives the term “photographer” an entirely different definition. Since she is in almost every single one of her photographs, she is no longer just the person who physically takes the photograph, but the person who designs what goes into the lens. Sherman completes all her photographs independently in her studio. She uses a variety of makeup and prosthetics to transform herself into many different characters.
Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer sees Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills.” These small, black-and-white photographs were taken from 1977-1978 and are comprised of many of the female clichés and stereotypes seen in movies during the 1950s. In these photographs her subjects take on an array of identities such as the housewife, the tourist, the lost loner and the temptress. They force us, as the viewer, to question the roles that women were given throughout film and the impression that these clichés leave on our culture. Sherman explores different identities to better understand them.
After the “Untitled Film Stills,” the work morphs into a larger and grander scale. In her Fashion series, Sherman mocks the industry’s projection of glamour and sex as a way to define beauty. The capricious photographs force us to realize the impression that the fashion industry leaves with us by showing how the female identity is so easily manipulated through industry and what that means for women as a whole. Sherman plays on the way men depict women and makes us aware the definitions inflicted by gender.
In Sherman’s history photographs she considers the relationship between the subject and the artist and how that effects representation and stereotypes. She plays the classic roles of the milkmaid, the aristocrat, Madonna with child and many male roles. Throughout the retrospective, Sherman uses theatricality to expose how society marginalizes and defines individuals. Her work speaks to the importance of how women see themselves and necessity of female impowerment. Overall her retrospective is inspirational and a must-see.
Cindy Sherman has created a niche for herself within art that has solidified her important role in history. This show will be on the 6th floor of the Museum of Modern Art through June 11th. Do not miss it!